Dinner Parties on a Budget

About 14 years ago my sister-n-law remarried and with a new husband, she gained a group of friends that had dinner parties every month.  My new brother-n-law also gained the two of us.  So when we put the old friends with the new family, we got a group of 8.  We have since added another couple to make 10.

What to Fix

We started out by having everybody bring something, but it was hard to ask someone to bring a particular thing to go with the main course.  So, now we take turns and fix it all.  It’s really easier to plan the whole meal and since we only host 2 months a year, it’s really not that expensive.  For a nice dinner party, I like to have an appetizer, salad, bread, entrée, and a dessert.

Once you figure out what you’re having, make a list and go shopping.  Figuring out what to fix is the hard part.

Starters…aka Appetizers

This is easy.  You won’t need a lot, because you don’t want your guests to fill up before they even get to the table.  Set out some veggies like carrots, celery, and cucumbers with a nice dip, like ranch.  Set out a tray of cheese and crackers.  This is usually great for the women but the men will want meat.  You can buy a package of little smokies or meat balls and heat them in BBQ sauce.  Serve them in a bowl with toothpicks on the side.  I know, this sounds cheesy, but after you have done a few of these, you can get a little fancier.  Don’t forget to have something set out for your guests to drink.  The main purpose of appetizers is for you and your guests to have time to visit and catch up with each other.

Bread and Salad

You can either buy a bag of salad or create your own.  Remember those cucumbers and carrots you set out for appetizers…well those will go great in your salad too.  I like to make a simple oil and vinegar base dressing with a package of dressing mix and lightly toss it on just before serving.  I make the salad earlier in the day and put it in the fridge without the dressing.  This is one more thing you won’t have to do when your guests arrive.  As for the bread, pick up a nice loaf or rolls the morning of your party.  Most grocery stores have a supply of fresh made bread and rolls for your choosing.  Just pick one you like.  This will add a nice touch to your meal.

The Main Course

If you’re cooking for 8-10 people, you will want to pick an entrée that will feed everyone without worrying about not having enough.  I like to be able to visit with my guests, so I try to fix something that I can prepare in advance.  This can be a casserole that you can prepare ahead and pop in the oven to reheat, or maybe even spaghetti.  I have a recipe my mother taught me that I embellish with a little fresh green peppers and onions.  My spaghetti is always a big hit and it’s easy to fix ahead.  If I’m not going to have time the day of, I can fix it several days ahead and either freeze or stick it in the fridge.  If you need to fix vegetables, pick something you can either microwave or fix in the oven quickly.  Frozen vegetables have come a long way these days.  I find green peas or corn to be an easy fix.  Or if you like broccoli, you can microwave it a couple of minutes and it’s ready to go.

Coffee and Dessert

Get your coffee pot ready to go and set out the nice cups.  When you get through with dinner, start the coffee and set out the milk and sugar and a sugar substitute.  For me, dessert is my favorite part.  Two reasons, I like to bake, and I like to eat sweets.  If you’re not a baker, don’t panic.  You can pick up a nice cake or pie at the store and add a little something to make it your own.  A scoop of ice cream for a slice of pie or a swirl of chocolate or raspberry syrup on the plate for a piece of cake.  You can also have a little fun by letting everyone fix their own ice cream sundaes or banana splits.  You just buy the fix ‘ins and let everyone get creative.

Dinner parties are a great way for friends and family to get together and have a nice evening.  Be sure not to stress yourself out so much that you don’t enjoy the party.  Have fun.

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